Japan quarantines cruise ship as toll of new virus grows

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(Japan quarantines cruise ship)

TOKYO (AP) — Large white sheets covering them head-to-knee, people infected with a new virus were led by gloved and masked officials Wednesday off a Japanese cruise ship, while the rest of the 3,700 people on board faced a two-week quarantine in their cabins. In Hong Kong, more than 3,600 people on another cruise ship were to be screened after it was banned by Taiwan amid growing worry about the spread of an outbreak.

The ships are caught up in a global health emergency that seems to worsen by the day. The little-understood coronavirus has killed nearly 500 people, mostly in mainland China, but it has also spread panic and anger around the world as the cases grow.

As thousands of hospital workers in Hong Kong went on strike to demand the border with mainland China be closed completely, the city announced that all people entering from the mainland, including Hong Kong residents, must be quarantined for 14 days. Tokyo Olympics organizers, meanwhile, said they are increasingly worried about the disruption the virus is causing ahead of the games, which open in less than six months.

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asked for $675 million to help countries address the expected spread of the virus. He acknowledged that the sum is a lot, but told a news briefing that “it’s much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now.”

Tedros said in the last 24 hours, the U.N. health agency has seen the biggest jump in cases since the start of the epidemic.

Dr. David Heymann, who led the World Health Organization’s response to the SARS outbreak, said it’s too early to tell when the new coronavirus will peak, but that it appears to still be on the increase.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries outside China to share more data on infections, saying detailed information has been provided in only 38% of cases. “Without better data, it’s very hard for us to assess how the outbreak is evolving or what impact it could have and to ensure we’re providing the most appropriate recommendations.”

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